Republican Senate candidate Rand Paul, on the heels of his comment that businesses ought to be free to engage in racial discrimination, has let another interesting comment fly loose: He says that, after more than a month of a gigantic oil spill into the Gulf of Mexico which BP, the oil company responsible for the offshore drilling disaster, shouldn’t receive any criticism from the government. Paul said that Barack Obama’s statements, seeking to ensure that BP pays for the damage resulting from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, are “un-American in his criticism of business”.
Paul went on to suggest that it’s not fair to hold BP responsible for the Deepwater Horizon crisis, although BP used a corrupt permitting process to avoid coming up with a plan ahead for what to do if an oil spill should take place, and although BP avoided installing an emergency shutoff switch for blowouts, covered up the extent of the oil spill for weeks, and is now insisting on using highly toxic dispersants that are banned in many places around the world because they’re so dangerous. “Accidents happen,” said Paul.
Is that what Rand Paul would say face-to-face to the families of the eleven oil rig workers killed in the Deepwater Horizon explosion? Accidents happen? Is that what Rand Paul would say to the huge numbers of Americans who depend upon a clean Gulf of Mexico to earn a living? Accidents happen? Is that the kind of person Kentuckians want to represent them in the U.S. Senate – someone who will, when a negligent corporation causes great death and destruction, shrug his shoulders and say that accidents happen?
What on Earth makes Rand Paul think that it’s unAmerican to criticize giant corporations that cause great harm to the American nation through their neglect and dishonest? Where is it in the Constitution that says that government shouldn’t say anything bad about corporations that abuse the public trust?
The Constitution of the United States of America explicitly assigns Congress the duty of overseeing interstate commerce, and Congress has delegated the implementation of much of that authority to the Executive Branch, led by the President. If Rand Paul thinks that it’s “UnAmerican” for the President of the United States to criticize interstate corporations that put huge stretches of the nation’s resources at risk, then he must think that the Constitution itself is “UnAmerican”.
Rand Paul ought to think again before surrendering to the impulse to accuse Americans of being “UnAmerican”. Here in America, after all, people don’t forfeit their citizenship when they criticize corporate activities, no matter how large and connected with financial elites those corporations are. In a time when Wall Street businesses have squandered billions upon billions of dollars of government bailouts, it’s particularly galling to hear a politician like Rand Paul suggest that big business should be exempt from scrutiny and criticism.
Once upon a time, the Tea Party said that it was against abuses of the public trust by big business. Now, with Rand Paul leading the Tea Party, it seems that the Tea Party has become a corporate tool, more interested in giving excuses for the executive class than in working for accountability.